Monthly Archives: August 2011

Berkeley (Haas) Application Essays for 2011-2012

UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business has released its MBA application essays and deadlines for the Class of 2014. Haas made some big changes to its essays (lots of short ones!) this year’s so let’s dig in. Here are the school’s application deadlines and essays, followed by our comments in italics:

Haas Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: October 12, 2011
Round 2: December 1, 2011
Round 3: January 18, 2012
Round 4: March 7, 2012

Haas Admissions Essays
Before you dive into the essays, be sure to read the passage on the Haas admissions website. Last year this was used as a prompt for one of the school’s short-answer essays. Now, all of the essays are built off of this statement of the school’s principles.

  1. What brings you the greatest joy? How does this make you distinctive? (250 words)
    This question is new this year, although we consider it a distant cousin of last year’s question, which asked, “What are you most passionate about? Why?” We like this version better, perhaps because the old one reminded us too much of Stanford’s first essay question. Also, the choice of words — “What brings you the greatest JOY?” — makes this unique among business school essays. The key here is to write about something that you really, really care about. A good litmus test is this: How knowledgeable are you about the subject? Many applicants will be tempted to go bold and say something like “Fighting global warming is what I’m most passionate about,” because they feel like that’s just what one is supposed to say here, but then can’t back it up with facts. Admissions officers will see right through this, so avoid those temptations here.

    The latter half of this question — “How does this make you distinctive?” — is interesting because that’s almost the implied second half of every essay question that you’ll answer. We actually think that this may mislead some applicants because they’ll feel a need to choose a topic that based on “distinctiveness” rather than “joy.” We recommend at least starting with an emphasis on joy (What do you really, REALLY enjoy doing?), and then revisiting if it looks like you’re falling flat in the distinctiveness department.
  2. What is your most significant accomplishment? (250 words)
    This question carries over from last year, although Haas subtly rephrased it this year. Ideally the story you choose will demonstrate at least one or two of the key themes in your application. All things being equal, a story from your professional life will serve you best, but don’t feel that your significant accomplishment MUST be from the workplace.
  3. Describe a time when you questioned an established practice or thought within an organization. How did your actions create positive change? (250 words)
    This question is new this year. We like this a lot better than last year’s question that asked you to give “an example of a situation in which you displayed leadership.” This new question is far more specific, and gets closer to what MBA admissions officers really wan to see in applicants: a willingness to go beyond the norm, go outside of their comfort zone, and improve on the status quo (and don’t miss the fact that “question the status quo” is one of the school’s four key principles). Note the second part and its emphasis on “positive change”… this also gets to the heart of the matter. They don’t want to just see that you question everything all the time, but rather than you do it when there’s an opportunity to make things better. How did you make a positive impact on the community or organization around you?
  4. Describe a time when you were a student of your own failure. What specific insight from this experience has shaped your development? (250 words)
    This question is also new this year. Continuing a trend, notice how Haas uses the second part to specifically call out what the admissions committee looks for in your response. As we always advise with “failure” questions, this is the real meat of the essay — illustrating what you learned and, ideally, describing a later time when you put that lesson to work. These essays are all very short, so that last part may not make the final cut, but be sure to give enough emphasis to what you learned. In an essay this short, it’s easy to finish describing the failure and then realize you’ve already hit the word limit; you can’t afford to let that happen here.
  5. Describe a time when you led by inspiring or motivating others toward a shared goal. (250 words)
    This is another new question that is descended from last year’s “an example of a situation in which you displayed leadership” question. Haas clearly wants to dissect applicants’ leadership abilities at a much more granular level than it has in the past. Here, what the admissions committee wants to see is an ability to get things done through others, rather than a tendency to be a great contributor but not necessarily a leader. Other, similar questions from other schools as you to “win others over to your way of thinking.” While that’s not exactly what Haas asks here, think about this question that way if you’re having a hard time coming up with a story from your past experiences.
  6. a. What are your post-MBA short-term and long-term career goals? How have your professional experiences prepared you to achieve these goals? b. How will an MBA from Haas help you achieve these goals? (1000 words for 6a. and 6b.)
    This question is an evolution of a similar one from last year. Once again, we find it interesting how Haas so specifically calls out what it wants to see in your response. This question is essentially the typical “Why an MBA? Why this school?” essay that most schools ask, although Haas makes an effort to explicitly call out parts a and b, which suggests that past applicants haven’t sufficiently answered both parts — especially the “Why Haas?” part. Ask yourself these questions: Where do you see yourself in a few years (and beyond that), and why do you need an MBA to get there? Specifically, why do you need a Haas MBA to get there? Why not another top-ten MBA program? Really force yourself to answer that question, even if not all of your answer makes its way into your final essay response!

To learn more about Haas and other top-ranked business schools, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!


Chicago Booth Application Essays for 2011-2012

Chicago Booth has released its admissions essays and deadlines for the 2011-2012 applications season. Last year the Booth admissions office made a lot of changes to the school’s application. While the change look less dramatic this year, there’s still plenty to dig our teeth into, so let’s begin.

Here ate Chicago Booth’s MBA admissions deadlines and essays, followed by our comments in italics:

Chicago Booth Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: October 12, 2011
Round 2: January 4, 2012
Round 3: April 4, 2012

Chicago Booth Admissions Essays

  1. What are your short- and long-term goals, and how will a Chicago Booth MBA help you reach them? (600 words)

    Booth replaced last year’s three-part question with this one, which is a more traditional “Why an MBA? Why this school?” question. Note that, as important is it is to make a convincing case about your career goals and your reasons for wanting an MBA, you also really need to take the “Why Booth?” part seriously… What about Booth attracts you to the school? This is where you need to show that you’ve done your homework, and convince the school that you’re not only applying because Booth is highly ranked. Chicago Booth looks for a specific kind of applicant — one who’s intellectually curious and is not afraid of rigor. Does that appeal to you? If so, show it here!

  2. Re-applicants only: Upon reflection, how has your thinking regarding your future, Chicago Booth, and/or getting an MBA changed since the time of your last application? (300 words)

    This question gets at the heart of what MBA admissions officers ask when they see a reapplicant: “What has changed since last time?” While we don’t believe the Booth admissions committee did it deliberately, we do think that the phrasing here can be a bit misleading. The way it’s written, this question may lead some applicants to believe that they didn’t get in before because of something wrong in the way they answered the “Why an MBA? Why Booth?” question, but that may not at all be why they were rejected last time. Imagine you’re an applicant who had all the right reasons for applying to Booth last year, but you had some other big weakness that kept you out, such as a low GMAT score or not enough meaningful work experience. Now you’re back, and you’ve worked hard to plug those holes, and now you need to manufacture a reason why your thinking is now different, although that thinking wasn’t the problem the first time around.

    So, our advice here is to answer the question (ALWAYS answer the question asked!), but keep in mind that this may be a bit of a red herring. If you’re certain that it was something else that kept you out, be sure to work that into this essay, particularly if it’s something that won’t immediately jump out at admissions officers when they review your application data sheets.

  3. At Chicago Booth, we believe each individual has his or her own leadership style. How has your family, culture, and/or environment influenced you as a leader? (750 words)

    This question is also new this year, and it replaces a question that asked about a time when you took a risk. This question is potentially more interesting, although the fact that it’s less specific may invite pompous, rambling responses from some less savvy applicants. We envision a misguided applicant starting with a high-minded quote from a world leader and then providing five paragraphs that leave admissions officers wondering about who the applicant really is. How can you avoid this? Stick with specifics. You have a decent amount of room to work here (750 words), so plan on demonstrating your leadership style through one or two stories, preferably from your work experience (although stories from extracurricular activities are fair game, too). Avoid generalities and keep the focus on you, and you can do well with this essay!

  4. Considering what you’ve already included in the application, what else should we know about you? In a maximum of four slides, tell us about yourself.

    We have set forth the following guidelines:

    * The content is completely up to you. There is no right, or even preferred, approach to this
    * There is a strict maximum of four pages, though you can provide fewer if you
    * Acceptable formats for upload in the online application system are PowerPoint or
    * The document will be viewed electronically, but we cannot support embedded videos, music, or motion images. Additionally, all content MUST be included in the four pages; hyperlinks will not be
    * The file will be evaluated on the quality of content and ability to convey your ideas, not on technical expertise or presentation.

    Ahh, Chicago Booth’s “PowerPoint question” is back yet again, although it’s been reworded this year. The one noteworthy change is in the very first eight words: “Considering what you’ve already included in the application…” In other words, don’t simply rehash what you’ve already covered elsewhere in your application. You really must ensure that these pages add something new to your application — don’t use it to just show off professional achievements that you already cover elsewhere in your application. Be creative! The reason Booth kept this question is because, while it hasn’t worked perfectly for the school so far, it really is the admissions committee’s best chance to tease some personality out of your application. So, give them some!

To learn more about Booth and other top-ranked MBA programs, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Wharton Application Essays for 2011-2012

Wharton has released its MBA application deadlines and admissions essays for the coming year. Last year Wharton really stirred the pot by introducing radically different essays. Let’s dig into this year’s application and see how much things have changed this year.

Here are Wharton’s deadlines and essays for the Class of 2014, followed by our comments in italics:

Wharton Admissions Deadlines

Round 1: October 3, 2011
Round 2: January 4, 2012
Round 3: March 5, 2012

These deadlines are virtually identical to last year’s deadlines. Note that applying in Round 1 means that you’ll receive your decision by December 20, giving you time to adjust your Round 2 application strategy if you don’t receive good news from Wharton.

Wharton Admissions Essays

Required Question
What are your professional objectives? (300 words)

This question carries over from last year, when it was new. Although it’s phrased differently than other schools’ questions, you can still consider this a “Why an MBA?” essay. (Note that this question doesn’t come up in any other essay here, so you will need to address it here.) Also note that, while this mandatory question only requires 300 words, Wharton gives you 600 words for each of the other, more introspective essays. Clearly, the Wharton admissions committee is more interested in getting to know you as a person than as a professional. We always hear MBA admissions officers sat this, but Wharton is really putting this idea into action.

Think of this essay as your chance to properly “set the stage” for the rest of your candidacy. It’s only 300 words long, but after reading this essay admissions officers should clearly understand where you want to go in your career and why a Wharton MBA makes sense for you now. Wharton doesn’t ask “Why Wharton?” and you don’t have many words to spare, so don’t devote too many words to answering this here. You have 1,200 more words (across your other essays) to help lead them to the conclusion that you’re a great fit with Wharton.

Optional Questions (Choose Two)

  1. Reflect on a time when you turned down an opportunity. What was the thought process behind your decision? Would you make the same decision today? (600 words)

    This question carries over from last year, and we love it as an “introspection” question. MBA admissions officers really want to see self-awareness and introspection in applicants, and this question provides that. Don’t worry if the opportunity that you turned down seems small — you don’t need to blow them away with the “sexiness” of the opportunity. Also, note the emphasis on your thought process; that matters more to the admissions committee than what the actual opportunity was. Help them understand why you made the decision, what you learned about your wants and values in the process, and how it’s shaped you as a person. Also, answering “No” to the last part of the question is okay. Having the humility to wish you could make a decision over again is one terrific sign of introspection and maturity.

  2. Discuss a time when you faced a challenging interpersonal experience. How did you navigate the situation and what did you learn from it? (600 words)

    This question is new this year, although it is not radically different from one of last year’s essays. The difference to note is that, while last year’s question only asked about navigating a challenging relationship, this new version specifically asks for how you did it and — perhaps most importantly — what you learned from the experience. Our bet is that last year many applicants didn’t place enough emphasis on this last point, and now Wharton wants to make clear that this is a critical part of this essay.

    This essay is your chance to demonstrate empathy, maturity, and a willingness to consider others’ points of view. Where it differs is that it takes a little emphasis off of the idea of diversity and explores tough relationships of all types. As we’ve said before, it’s most important here that you can make clear why the situation was challenging, what you did to overcome it, and — hopefully — how you were successful. Even if you weren’t successful, though, what’s most interesting here is what you learned in the process.

  3. “Innovation is central to our culture at Wharton. It is a mentality that must encompass every aspect of the School – whether faculty research, teaching or alumni outreach.” – Thomas S. Robertson, Dean, The Wharton School. Keeping this component of our culture in mind, discuss a time when you have been innovative in your personal or professional life. (600 words)

    This question is entirely new this year. “Innovation” can be interpreted in multiple ways, and if no example from your past immediately springs to mind, then think about the word “creative.” How did you creatively solve a problem at work or in your life? How did you go beyond your normal job description or come up with a solution that had never been tried before? While it’s so trite that we’re reluctant to use this phrase, think about a time when you “thought outside the box.” More than anything, here the Wharton admissions committee looks for signs that you’re not content to just follow your job description, you do more than simply work on assignments as they’re handed to you (but do no more than that), and you’re not afraid to dream big now and then. Don’t think “innovation” necessarily means “science” or “tech” here!

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